CHICAGO Puerto Rico has 683 confirmed cases of the Zika virus, including 65 pregnant women with symptoms of the virus and one death, U.S. health officials said on Friday.
Officials who have been tracking cases of the mosquito-borne illness since December, say five patients with suspected cases of the paralyzing nerve disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome have tested positive for the Zika virus, according to a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC also reported that one patient with a confirmed Zika infection died from severe thrombocytopenia, a disorder marked by abnormally low blood platelets, which are needed to help the blood clot.
CDC said although deaths from Zika are rare, the death "highlights the possibility of severe cases, as well as the need for continued outreach to raise health care providers' awareness of complications that might lead to severe disease or death," researchers said in the report published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality weekly Report.
Zika, a virus known to cause the birth defect microcephaly, first began spreading in Puerto Rico in December. In Brazil, Zika has been linked to 1,198 confirmed cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies. Zika has also been linked to other severe birth defects and with stillbirth.
The World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency on Feb. 1. In addition to microcephaly, the agency says there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome.
U.S. health officials said Zika remains a public health threat in Puerto Rico, with more cases expected throughout 2016.
Residents of and travelers to Puerto Rico are urged to take steps to avoid mosquito bites including the use of mosquito repellent, take precautions to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of Zika, and seek medical care for any acute illness with rash or fever.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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